Dance of Love

The Opera House was a whirlwind of activity as Opera House staff decorated the lobby and the grand staircase with red ribbons and placed cut out hearts where ever they could find a space, and set out boxes of chocolates on small marble tables here and there. The wine steward had established a fine array of champagne with tables filled with long, delicate glass champagne flutes.

It was Valentine's Day and there was to be a dance that evening. Not quite a ball, but an elegant, festive dance in celebration of Saint Valentine and for the gods and goddesses of love, those in mythology and those who danced or sang on the stages.

Christine and Meg helped each other get ready. Christine was dressed in a lovely red velvet gown trimmed with white lace at the neckline. Her hair set in a twist making her swan like neck even more graceful. Meg wore a red organza and chiffon dress that allowed her to twirl and dance as she would be performing as well as enjoying the evening. Christine was to be a surprise performer at the event. She was nervous about the idea of performing anyplace except the stage, because that was what she had been long trained for. Not an impromptu concert from the dance floor.

For a moment she wished Raoul were there, but she had turned him down when he had proposed marriage to her a month before. She loved her childhood friend, but not in the romantic way he wished. Since then, he had retreated to the family estate and his Opera Box sat empty. He would get over it, she was sure, but until then, she felt a sense of loss at not having someone on her side on such an important night.

Once finished dressing, Meg left Christine's dressing room to seek out her mother, Madame Antoinette Giry, who would be organizing the dancers. Antoinette was stunning in a red blouse and black velvet skirt. Her hair was set in a delicate chignon and she looked elegant and formidable. As befit her station as choreographer and Mistress of the Opera House's Dance corps. "Shall we gather the girls?" Antoinette asked her daughter. "They are so excited! So many fine gentlemen will be there tonight. Some have fiancés, it's true, but I have heard rumors that there will be some available young men. Maybe I'll snag a Count or a Baron, myself, tonight," she laughed, knowing it would annoy her mother. Together they left their apartments and made their way to the rehearsal room.

Christine, now alone and more nervous than ever, turned and latched the door to her dressing room, then approached the huge mirror that covered an entire wall. She saw her reflection, but there was something else there, as well. "Angel?" she began timidly, "Are you there?" She paused, close to the cold surface.

"I am here…" a voice replied.

"Oh Angel… I am so nervous. I am to perform tonight. The Managers explicitly requested I sing for their guests at tonight's Valentine's Day Dance. I haven't had much time to rehearse. I am worried I'll be terrible."

"Calm yourself, my dear," said the melodious voice. "You are a professional. I have taught you well. If it helps you… remember that I will be watching. Think of me. Think of my voice soothing you, encouraging you. Embrace your talent and you will soar tonight. All of Paris will hear of it. Trust me."

Christine could feel herself blushing, she could see it in her reflection. "You mean so much to me, my Angel. After the kindness of Madame Giry and Meg, you have been kinder to me than anyone after my Papa passed." Her enormous blue eyes filled with tears, but she forced herself to stand tall. "If I could wish for anything, I would wish for us to meet. In real life. I do not want to wait for Heaven to come face to face with my Angel of Music."

There was an awkward silence and for a moment Christine feared that she had offended her Master. Then he spoke, his voice quieter than she'd ever heard him… "Be careful what you wish for, my dear."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Not all angels are from Heaven, you know. Some come from a darker realm. I feel, should I appear to you… you may be deeply disappointed."

"No!" she cried. "I have known your heart since I was a girl. You made me want to live again after I lost Papa. There is nothing you could do, any guise you might appear in, that would disappoint me."

There was another long silence. "We shall see," he said, finally. "You'd better hurry. Things are beginning downstairs. I could hear the musicians warming up. Sing well, my dear, the world will be yours, tomorrow."

Christine, could sense he was gone. She took one more glance in the mirror and left her room for the rehearsal rooms to await final instructions from Messieurs Moncharmin and Richard, the Opera House Managers.

The lobby and ballroom were filled to capacity. Women, all in shades of red, the men in black dress suits. Many had a rose or red flower in their lapel. The ballerinas twirled and spun through the crowd, chattering to the guests, the youngest sneaking chocolates and the occasional glass of champagne when Madame Giry wasn't looking.

Meg, looking gorgeous, had been asked to dance by a handsome Marquis, and they spun through the crowd on the dance floor, with Meg, laughing and charming her suitor.

The orchestra paused and the conductor tapped his baton on his music stand and nodded. Everyone turned to watch as Christine made her way down the grand staircase. When she was midway, the Maestro pointed his baton at her, and she opened her mouth and sang. She sang a new song that had been delivered anonymously to the Managers. It was called "the Dance of Love". It was gorgeous in both its orchestration and its lyrics "Dance with me on this night of nights, take my arm and I'll make you mine. Mine is the only love you need. Stars will burn out in the heavens above, jealous of our perfect love…" it began.

All eyes had been on her as she sang. When she finished, all was quiet for a moment and she feared the worst… when everyone, everyone from those in the lobby to those who had been on the dance floor to the staff, the Managers and even the orchestra all broke out in thunderous applause and cheers. She stood there for a moment, and then she smiled and it was like sunshine spilling over the crowd, and she dipped in a small curtsey.

Unsure what to do next, she felt someone take her arm. Looking up at her chivalrous savior she saw that the man beside her was a tall and stately figure. He was dressed elegantly and a heavy black velvet cloak draped from his shoulders almost sweeping the floor. One half of his handsome face was covered by a white mask… which, somehow, did not surprise her.

"Care to dance?" a voice purred close to her ear. Turning, now to face him, she looked puzzled for a moment. "Angel, is that you?" she finally asked.

"Would you be so disappointed if it were so?" The uncovered side of his face expressed doubt.

Instead, Erik found his muse embracing him. "Never!" she cried. "A heavenly angel would seem dull compared to my earthbound one!"

He held her away at arm's length for a moment "You have not seen what lies beneath this mask…" he told her.

"I could have married physical beauty if that mattered to me. I am not the child you once knew. I am a woman who has fallen in love with a man I know as well as my own heart!"

She saw him smile, almost bashfully, at that, and reaching beneath his cloak he brought out a beautiful platinum brooch in the shape of a rose, delicately studded in garnets and rubies with emerald leaves. He pinned it carefully to her dress. She gasped at its beauty. Then, reaching for his hand, together they descended the staircase to enjoy the party.